Everyday Heroes (Times 2)
One day a few years ago, I was in line to exchange a ticket and board an earlier train from Penn Station back home to Philadelphia. I was trying to balance on one foot while exchanging my work heels for a pair of sneakers, when I saw a familiar face. She was quite a few people ahead of me, wearing a baseball cap (if I remember correctly), and about to make a turn off of the straightaway that I had just stepped into. I knew I knew her, and I knew I was seeing her out of context somehow. But I couldn’t place her.
Too young to be a childhood friend or someone from college, too old to be a friend of my daughter. Then she turned to say something to the woman behind her, and her PETA T-shirt brought her back into focus for me. It was Karen Taggart, who was with PETA at the time, and I had just attended her session at a fundraising conference a mere handful of hours earlier.
Through FundRaising Success and Facebook, I have since gotten to know Karen better — she’s a data maven who’s now on staff at ROI Solutions; she’s also an unabashed dog lover, a devoted friend, a badass triathlete, a free spirit and a delightful goofball. But back then, she looked like just another woman in line, frustrated by the summer heat she had stepped out of and the train-station chaos she had stepped into, and who — oh, by the way — just happened to be responsible for saving countless animals from lives of misery.
I hung back a little, trying to not close the gap between us too much, because I try to respect people’s downtime and privacy in situations like this. Plus, she was engrossed in conversation with the woman directly behind her, who had children in tow and looked quite the tourist. I remember watching them talk (I swear this was not as stalker-ish as it sounds now) and thinking, “That woman has no idea who she’s talking to.”
I got a similar feeling a few years later when I was on a delayed flight, waiting in my seat to allow quick deplaning for fellow passengers who had too-close-for-comfort connections to make. Amid the nervous jostling and impatient “excuse me’s” came Marcelo Iniarra, a global fundraising consultant and fabulous speaker, who undoubtedly has led and inspired countless nonprofit fundraisers to raise billions of dollars for their causes. The people who paid him no mind as he made his way off the plane had no idea of the changes that he’s helped make in the world.
As we close out 2014 and head into what is considered the warmest, kindest, most spiritual and “giving-est” time of the year, I leave you with these thoughts. Not all heroes wear capes, and we have no idea what the person in line ahead of us does or is capable of making happen. Your donors are heroes. Remember that, and treat them as such. Engage with them, give thanks to them and for them. Figure out what you need to do to unlock their inner hero, and do it.
And so are you. Remember that, too, when the day-to-day of what you do feels overwhelming. Or disappointing. When it breaks your heart. Or your back. What you do matters. Thank you for doing it. Merry Christmas, Blessed Solstice and Happy Holidays from our family to yours.